The United Soybean Board (USB) had been working with Nancy Weiss, a Meeting Architect with Kinsley Meetings, for many years when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled their live meeting schedule. Nancy shared with us what it’s been like to quickly pivot to online meetings and shared the silver lining to the pandemic that she sees for the future of meeting planning.
When the pandemic shut down live meetings, the United Soybean Board (USB) couldn’t shut down their operation. “They had to find a way to get through this. They HAD to meet,” Nancy said. She issued an RFP to find a technology platform that would enable the USB to continue its work virtually.
USB faced two key challenges: They needed to replace the information sharing that happens at live, in-person meetings and they needed to hold votes on important issues.
“They have to get their work done, and they need meetings for that. They were uneasy about going virtual since they’d never held a virtual meeting before,” Nancy explained. Their 250-person group (78 board members plus other key team members and affiliates) are accustomed to two six-hour days of meetings, three times a year. There are other special committee meetings that bring the total to 15 in-person meetings per year.
The USB and Kinsley Meetings decided to try Educational Measure’s Array Virtual platform for their first virtual meeting. The results surpassed their expectations.
The USB found Array Virtual to be a more efficient way to communicate audience feedback and manage Q&A than other platforms, and in some ways -- even at live events. They felt that the Board was able to make well-informed decisions due to how information is presented on the platform.
Nancy explained, “Everyone wants to be heard, and not everyone is comfortable going up to a microphone in a conference room. It was easier for some members to ask questions in this setting, and they (the USB) believes that all members got the information they needed to make decisions. Possibly even better, more-informed decisions than at a live meeting.”
“They loved how easy the technology was to use, and how clean it looked. They loved having separate windows on the same screen for the presenter and the slide deck and found it more useful than just using a videoconference platform. It’s so simple and concise with the buttons and choices,” Nancy said.
“Working with the team at Educational Measures was great because while they will do what their customer wants, they really try to make it as easy as possible for customers to get the results they want,” she added.
For example, “We had to encourage the USB to use some of the audience engagement tools that Array Virtual offers,” Nancy says. “We were adding polling questions the night before the first presentation! Some of the questions were (designed) to collect usable information for the staff, and some were just for fun.”
The USB isn’t sure when they’ll be able to meet in person again. But they feel confident that their work will continue and are excited to work with Array Virtual as they plan future meetings.
“We (meeting planners) are always dealing with someone who can’t make it to a meeting – weather, travel issues, something,” Nancy said. In the past, the USB directors would passively dial in as if on a conference call. Now, due to the USB travel restrictions, it will be a while before they’re in the same room. They are excited that meetings held with Array Virtual deliver many of the key features that live meetings offer, and that they can confidently conduct their business for the foreseeable future.
“They are over the hump of trying the technology and seeing if it will work. Now they are planning to incorporate Array Virtual into future meetings,” Nancy said.
“The silver lining to all this,” said Nancy, “is that the live event world has a new awareness of the options available to us. We don’t know what the way back (to live meetings) will look like, but we see a lot of potential in virtual and hybrid meetings.” Using Array Virtual has shown Nancy and the USB that although hybrid and virtual meetings are physically different than live meetings, they can also be incredibly productive.
Kinsley Meetings has been working with companies and associations to create great meetings across the globe for over 25 years. They’ve run over 1000 meetings in 24 countries, including executive management meetings, employee and client appreciation events, sales incentive programs, education forums, and large-scale trade shows.